Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Lyon-hearted

Wheaton LyonPut on a funny costume. Make people laugh. Fire up the crowd to cheer on the team. Sounds easy, right? Try doing it beneath a blanket of fake fur. That’s what those who volunteer to be the Wheaton mascot, the Lyon, have to do. Paul Fineman ’11 tried it for one event, and Jacob LeBlanc ’06 was the Lyon his freshman, sophomore and senior years at more than 75 athletic games and 100 other events. So, what’s it like be the Lyon?

Jacob “Jake” LeBlanc ’06

Territory business manager for the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes division

Secret agent: “It was great to be able to act like a 5-year-old without anyone knowing who I was. I told almost no one. I was chased down on several occasions, but was able to avoid being ‘found out.’”

The importance of not being you: “You must have the ability to abandon your pride. You’re not you, you’re the Lyon. And you’ve gotta dance, or find a way to get the crowd excited.”

The cat walk: “Watch where you walk. You look through eyes, but you have to look through the mouth in order not to fall down stairs, which I have done.”

Don’t: “Don’t get too close to dogs. They don’t know what to do about you. You smell like a human, but you look like something different. It freaks them out. Don’t get so close to kids that they start to cry. The Lyon can freak them out.”

Lyon thoughts: “When I was the Lyon I was thinking: Sweat is dripping in my eyes, this is horrible! Did that person just wave at me? Or do they want a high five? If that person pulls on my tail one more time...”

Paul Fineman ’11

Sociology major

Funny business: “I have always loved making people laugh and seeing a crowd get into a game. Nothing bothers me more than going to a sporting event and seeing people not interested. I am a big SNL fan. Someone said if you really want to make people laugh, you shouldn’t worry about your appearance. I really believe in that. The Lyon opportunity really gave me the chance to be me and show school spirit at the same time.”

Lyon tamer: “Inside the costume it was very hot. It wasn’t the most comfortable time of my life, but I got used to it.... I think the biggest challenge I faced as the Lyon was being shy. I remember the first 10 minutes of the game I was shy and didn’t want to act too foolish, but then I realized I was a mascot. Acting foolish and making people laugh is what mascots do. Once you get out of your comfort zone it is a lot easier.”

No cat naps: “The biggest ‘do’ to being a Lyon is interacting with the kids. Some look up to you like you are a celebrity, so taking pictures with them and giving them high fives and ‘bunny ears’ are things that can make their day. The biggest don’t is don’t just sit there. A lot of mascots feel that dressing up is enough; it’s not.”

Read more about the history of the Lyons nickname at athletics.wheatoncollege.edu/information/ythelyons.

Wheaton Lyon photo / Keith Nordstrom

About Sandy Coleman

Sandy Coleman is the editor of the Wheaton Quarterly and Senior Associate Director in the Communications Office.